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Latest update : 2008-07-23

European leaders praised Serbia for the arrest of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic but remained hesitant to take further steps towards Serbia's EU membership. They urged Belgrade to deliver war crime suspect Ratko Mladic.

The arrest of alleged genocide mastermind Radovan Karadzic in Serbia has attracted praise and relief from the international community. Yet world leaders have reminded Belgrade that it must arrest all wanted war crime suspects before it can contemplate joining the European Union.


Serbian secret service agents arrested Karadzic on Monday in Belgrade, where he was living under a false identity and worked as a doctor.


For FRANCE 24’s Belgrade correspondent Laurent Rouy, this is a fundamental shift from the country's authorities. “[Former Serbian prime minister Vojislav] Kostunica used to oppose the arrest of war criminals. The ruling government is now pro-European. Karadzic’s arrest is a sign of goodwill from Serbia, which hopes to join the EU, but also a duty towards the victims.”


French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is currently heading the European Union, hailed the “long-awaited arrest.” He said that it “clearly shows the Belgrade government’s determination to bring Serbia closer to the EU by contributing to peace and stability in the Balkans.”


In New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called the arrest a "historic moment for the victims." NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the White House and a number of European governments also welcomed the news.


"Karadzic has been arrested, but Mladic has not"


But France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner made it clear that the capture of Karadzic was not enough to grant Serbia EU membership. "Things will be easier, but let's not prejudge anything," he said. “We decide things among 27 and there are those who will say: 'OK, Karadzic has been arrested, but Mladic has not.’”


Former Serbian general Ratko Mladic is also wanted for genocide in relation to the Srebrenica massacre. “The fugitive Bosnian-Serb wartime military commander is said to be more difficult to catch, so there might be disappointment for Serbia there,” said FRANCE 24's international affairs editor Armen Georgian.


The EU and Serbia signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) in April – a pact intended as a first step towards integration into the European Union. However, the agreement has been put on hold until Belgrade has entered into "full cooperation" with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).


According to the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana, it is now up to the prosecutors in The Hague to decide whether Serbia is fully cooperating with the court. EU foreign ministers confirmed that position after a Council meeting on Tuesday.


Divergent attitudes within the EU


Serbia's new pro-EU government, which was sworn in earlier this month after it won the election in May, has been busy trying to clear disputes between Belgrade and Brussels under the stewardship of President Borid Tadic.


Apart from the issue of war criminals, Serbia and the EU are still at odds over the independence of Kosovo.


According to Armen Georgian, the future of Serbia in the EU is not only contingent on the attitude of Serbian leaders. "Progress also depends on whether a consensus builds within the EU," he said.


Several member states, such as Italy, want to speed up accession talks with Belgrade while others, including Belgium and the Netherlands, insist on strict compliance with ICTY requirements before negotiations move forward.

Date created : 2008-07-23